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Important Terms to Know: Debridement

Practice Accelerator
February 23, 2024

Autolytic debridement: A method of debridement that uses the body’s own enzymes and the moisture trapped beneath the dressing to liquefy non-viable tissue. It is a slow, selective process by which endogenous phagocytic cells and proteolytic enzymes break down necrotic tissue. This process occurs in varying degrees in the presence of a moist wound healing environment and depends on the patient having a functioning immune system.

Conservative sharp debridement: Sharp debridement performed outside the operating room, and not requiring general anesthesia. It involves removal of clearly identifiable, devitalized tissue to above the level of viable tissue by using sharp instruments, including, but not limited to, scalpels, scissors, or curettes.

Debridement: The procedural act of removing non-viable tissue, biofilm, and debris from a wound.

Eschar: Dead tissue, found only in full-thickness wounds. It may be tan, brown, or black, and is usually dry and hard.

Hydrosurgical debridement: A form of debridement, also known as hydrosurgery, using a high-pressure fluid jet that runs parallel to the wound’s surface to draw nonviable tissue into a cutting chamber for excision and removal.


Necrotic tissue: Tissue that is no longer viable. May manifest as slough or eschar.

Selective debridement: Any type of debridement that removes only nonviable tissue or foreign matter from the wound.

Serial debridement: Repeat debridement, for instance when preventing biofilm reformation.

Slough: A stringy or fibrinous mass that may or may not be firmly attached to surrounding tissue. It is composed of serum and matrix proteins. It ranges in color from white to yellow or green (because of varying levels of bacterial colonization) to brown (hemoglobin is present). It may become thicker and harder to remove the longer it is present.

Surgical debridement: Sharp debridement that takes place in an operating room environment, and may require regional, spinal, or general anesthesia.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and do not represent the views of WoundSource, HMP Global, its affiliates, or subsidiary companies.